Unseeded Jelena Ostapenko fought back to stun Simona Halep and become Latvia’s first Grand Slam champion at the French Open.
Ostapenko overpowered title favourite Simona Halep to become one of the most surprising grand slam champions of all time.AThe 20-year-old, ranked 47, had never been beyond the third round at a grand slam before nor won a senior title. Ostapenko is the first unseeded player to win the women’s singles title at Roland Garros in the Open era.
Halep, 25, was playing in her second French Open final, after losing in three sets to Maria Sharapova in 2014. She had been the tournament favourite this time in the absence of Serena Williams; but again missed out on a first major title.
Jelena was unfazed, hitting 54 winners in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory; to become the first Latvian ever to win a grand slam singles crown. When she drilled a final backhand winner down the line, Ostapenko dropped her racket to the clay and held her arms aloft in delight and disbelief.
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Ostapenko’s Route to the Cup
Ostapenko had blasted her way into the final on the back of 245 winners; more than any other player in the draw, man or woman. But Ostapenko had made nearly as many errors and the challenge for her was to keep the ratio in her favour.
This was the classic contrast of styles, with Halep a superb mover and defender, but ultimately aggression won out.AWhat was most remarkable was how Jelena defied her lack of experience to fight back from a seemingly hopeless position.
Halep, beaten by Maria Sharapova in the final here in 2014, had been the favourite from the start of the tournament; and looked to be cruising at a set and 3-0, with points for 4-0. But Ostapenko trusted in her game and then came from behind again in the decider, winning the final five games.
She said: “I knew Simona is a great player and she was playing great. I was just trying to stay aggressive. I was missing but a couple of games were decisive and everything turned my way. Even in the third I was 3-1 down but I tried to fight for every point.”
Halep was classy in her speech, ” I’m sad I couldn’t win it, but it was a great experience. Now I want to congratulate Jelena – it’s an amazing thing. Keep it going because you are only a kid.”
“I would like to thank my team, my parents. It’s a tough day, but let’s keep working and let’s believe. I felt sick in the stomach to play in this final, so maybe I wasn’t ready to win it, but maybe next time.”